- Museum number
Sketches for the Labours of Hercules; struggling with Antaeus and below, three sketches of Hercules and the lion
Red chalk with some pen and brown ink
Verso: Two studies for a Visitation; the Virgin embraced by St Elizabeth, and Zacharias greeting Joseph, at right a similar group with a spaniel at their feet
Red and black chalk
- Production date
- 1630-1635 (circa)
Height: 311 millimetres
Width: 470 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This sheet of studies show Rubens drawing on varous sources of reference (see discussion in Rowlands below). These compositional studies on the recto were used by Rubens in the painting of Hercules and the Lion once in the Royal Palace at Berlin (Rooses 619). This work was engraved in mezzotint by Johann Joseph Freidhof (for an impression, see 1891,0414.870). The verso shows various studies for a Visitation, that are sensitively drawn in a combination of black and red chalk. A similar sheet (recto: Carrying of the Cross and Christ presented to the People; verso: Hippodamia seized by the centaur and Hercules and the Bull) was acquired at Christie's New York (26 January 2011, lot 269) by the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, inv.no.12257.
Lit: L. Burchard-R.A. d'Hulst, 'Rubens Drawings', 1963, pp.295-301, no.190, fig.190; J. Held, 'Selected Drawings', New York, 1986, cat.no.217, fig.216; "Rubens and his Legacy: from Van Dyck to Cézanne", exh.cat. Bozar Brussels and Royal Academy of Arts London, 2015, cat.no.3.
Entry from J. Rowlands, Rubens: Drawings and Sketches, BMP 1977
On the recto in the upper row there are three sketches of Hercules and Antaeus, and two of Hercules or Atlas carrying the Globe, and between these two groups is a head whose identity is uncertain. Held, by comparing it with a drawing in the Louvre (Lugt cat.no.1228) suggests that it is that of Hercules trying to free himself from the shirt of Nessus. In the lower row there are three sketches of Hercules strangling the Lion, and one of Hercules and Antaeus.
It is interesting to consider the possible sources of the different figures. The Laocoön group no doubt was in Rubens's mind when drawing several of the contending figures of Hercules and Antaeus, as well as one of the sketches of Hercules carrying the Globe, which was also to some extent inspired by the Farnese Hercules. His sketches of Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion reflect the influence of Giulio Romano, and also a woodcut after Raphael by G. Nicolo Vicentino (see 1852,0612.3).
The studies on this sheet of Hercules and Antaeus were the basis for a painting commissioned by the King of Spain in 1639, and completed by Jordaens after the artist's death. It seems most likely that this was the painting of this subject formerly belonging to the Earl of Derby at Knowsley Hall. The modello for it is the panel now in Melbourne. Two monochrome oil-sketches are also extant, and those like the ex-Knowsley Hall painting and the Melbourne sketch are both in reverse to the drawing.
The studies for 'Hercules or Atlas carrying the Globe' can be connected with the painting executed for the Torre de la Parada, a commission received in 1636. The oil-sketch for this is now in the collection of Count Antoine Seilern. Rubens evidently derived his renderings of Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion from classical prototypes, but his immediate source was renaissance Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts, such as that by Guiseppe Niccolo Vicentino already mentioned, and a woodcut attributed to Boldrini; both have inscriptions giving the design to Raphael. In the woodcut attributed to Boldrini the contenders have been placed in a landscape and this part was inspiration for the powerful and probably much earlier drawing in the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, Mass. (Rowlands 1977, cat. no. 63). Various painted versions of the subject exist, but none of them appear to have been executed by Rubens himself. The outer studies in the lower row on the present sheet are akin to the Williamstown drawing: that in between, however, has more in common with the Hercules and the Lion in the oil-sketch in the collection of Mrs Charles L. Kuhn, Cambridge, Mass.
Although the rendering of the subject on the verso, the Visitation, derives ultimately from the left wing of the 'Descent from the Cross', it appears to have been produced after a grisaille for an engraving by Pieter de Jode from about 1630-32. In this oil-sketch the principal figures have been arranged in a compact way, made possible by the widening of the composition. In the present studies the grouping of the figures is changed yet again and Rubens here has considerably heightened the intensity of display of emotion in the greeting of the two Holy Women. We can see no grounds at all for Glück-Haberditzl's rejection of these fine late studies. The studies on both recto and verso can be connected with particular commissions some time in the period after 1630. Another study in red and black chalk of 'Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion', dependant on the woodcut by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino, is in the Print Room at Antwerp, and is datable like the present sheet after 1630.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1977 BM, Rubens drawings and sketches, no.184
2009/10 Nov-Jan BM, P&D, 'Rubens Drawings' (no cat.)
2014-5, Sep-Jan, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 'Rubens and his Legacy'
2015, Jan-Apr, London, RA, 'Rubens and his Legacy'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- According to Colvin's report this drawing came from the Lankrink, Hudson, Richardson and Woodburn collections.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number